Commentary: International Group of Eminent Persons should set forth roadmap for breaking free of nuclear deterrence theory

by Koji Higuchi, Staff Writer

The International Group of Eminent Persons, a conference proposed by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for achieving a world without nuclear weapons, seems ready to expand its discussions over the next three years or so. As the international situation surrounding nuclear weapons becomes increasingly complex, Russia’s continued threat to use such weapons is a crisis that faces the world now. With that, it is urgently necessary to establish a roadmap for the reduction of nuclear weapons on the basis of what is learned in Hiroshima about the horrors of the atomic bombing.

“The candid exchange of views beyond national stances will lead to the important role of serving as a ‘bridge,’” said Mr. Kishida on December 11, after attending the group’s first meeting, held in Hiroshima City. His comment was in response to a media interview in which he was asked about the role of Japan as liaison between nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states.

Seven members of the group represent six nuclear states, including the United States, Russia, and China. The other eight are from non-nuclear weapons states, four of whom represent Japan and Germany, nations that fall under the “nuclear umbrella” provided by the United States. Only two members are from countries that have joined the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons—New Zealand and Indonesia.

If the members are to truly share wisdom beyond their own national positions, they should first focus on discussions about how to break free of the nuclear deterrence theory. So long as countries around the world accept this theory of deterrence, which relies on nuclear weapons to prevent other countries from using them, the path forward for the reduction of the weapons will not be easy.

The Group of Eminent Persons, which was organized by Mr. Kishida when he was Japan’s foreign minister and the predecessor conference of this international group, put together proposals for restoring arms-control frameworks between the United States and Russia, but A-bomb survivors were left unsatisfied. If the government of Japan, the A-bombed nation that once again called for a meeting of such “eminent persons,” remains stuck under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, it will have little power to persuade others to successfully achieve a world without nuclear weapons. For that reason, Japan’s government must take the lead in breaking free of the nuclear deterrence theory.

(Originally published on December 13, 2022)